Wine Wednesday: Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, often noted as the largest and most important wine appellation in the southern Rhône. With so much history and so many great wines coming from the area, it is easy to see why Châteauneuf-du-Pape is so talked about. Read on for our next Rhône 101 lesson, to learn more about this Holy Grail of red wine regions.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape has a rich history, that is centered around, as its name indicates, the papacy. In 1308, Pope Clement V relocated the papacy from Rome to the town of Avignon, which is about 19 kilometers south of what is now known as the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Clement V and the following “Avignon Popes” were lovers of French wines, especially wines coming from the few kilometers north of them, on the banks of the Rhône. Under Pope John XXII, who succeeded Clement V, the wines of that area become known as “Vin du Pape” or, “Wine of the Pope,” later evolving into the term Châteauneuf-du-Pape. John XXII was the one to erect the famous castle, the literal Châteauneuf du Pape ("new castle of the Pope"), which is a symbol for the appellation.
Established in 1936, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known as one of the first AOCs (appellation d’origine controlée) in France, and with that came strict standards that are still adhered to today. Thirteen grape varieties are permitted to be produced in the region, with Grenache Noir being the most dominant.
Fun fact: For the last 63 years, there has been a law in Châteauneuf-du-Pape prohibiting the “flying over, landing, or taking off of flying saucers” in the area. Extraterrestrials, beware!
The region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape ranges from the eastern bank of the Rhône near Orange, to to Sorgues (near Avignon) in the south east, covering 3200 hectares of land. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famous for the galets roulés, which are round rocks or pebbles that cover the clay soil, good for retaining and releasing heat, and appropriately retaining and draining moisture.
Red Châteauneuf-du-Pape, often if primarily Grenache Noir, are often very fruit forward. Syrah will be blended to add spice and color, and Mourvedre lends elegance and structure. In general, these red wines are often described as earthy, gamy, rich in spice, herbaceous, and good for ageing. White Châteauneuf-du-Pape can range from lean and mineral, to rich and oily, depending on the blend. Roussanne and Grenache Blanc are the two most commonly used white grapes.
Try it at the girl & the fig!
Domaine Saint Préfert, 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (80% Clairette, 20% Roussanne)
Domaine la Barroche, 2014 Pure, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (100% Grenache)
“Swirl and smell and you’ll discover an intense array of fruit, spice, herbs, and
minerality fighting for your attention. Expect black cherry liqueur, a medley of
plums, anise, preserved strawberries, raspberry blossoms, dried thyme and
rosemary, purple flowers, garrigue, pepper, and a wonderful earthy/rocky mix.
The full-bodied palate is fresh, intense, and mouthwateringly lush with high-toned
notes of kirsch, herbs, and minerality.”